The Desert’s Beautiful Face.
September 8, 2008

“I am the things that are, and those that are to be, and those that have been. No one ever lifted my skirts: the fruit which I bore was the sun.”

Proclus. On Plato’s Timaeus.

(Inscription in the temple of Neith, at Sais, Egypt.) 

Photo opportunities forever present themselves in the desert, and I enjoy wandering our property on the look-out for beauty. The monsoon rains and accompanying cloudy skies magically enhance what is already a wild, breathtaking landscape. I love how the desert continually renews herself, shifting and changing like a kaleidoscope. 

This is where God lives — or at least, where she vacations.

The temperature is slowly going down, which makes all the chores that come with animal rescue work, horses and dogs much more bearable.

This has been the hottest summer I can remember in Arizona. 

While the rains are a reason for celebration because they bring the temperatures down, the clouds that refuse to comply perpetuate a humidity we’re unused to in this arid climate.

Piglet, our eight-year old terrier mix, is terrified of thunder. When the storms roll in most afternoons, Piggy becomes so clingy and frantic that I end up carrying him around with me while I do laundry or fill the horses’ water buckets.

On the other hand, Estrella Bella, our two-year old terrier-Italian Greyhound mix, saved from the pound (she was to be euthanized the next morning, with her terrier’s reverse-sneeze having been misdiagnosed as a sign of respiratory illness) couldn’t care less.

One of the best parts of monsoon season, and one of the most beautiful, are the rainbows.

With Autumn now approaching, (and along with it, meteor shower season, which started with the Perseids in August), dusk arrives earlier and earlier, and so do the Colorado River toads, as we found out last weekend. Even the moon can’t wait to take her place in the soon-to-be star-studded skies.

 

Life can be tough for the best of us, full of twists and turns, fears and worries. Find inspiration wherever you can find it, and don’t forget to look right outside your window for evidence of the bigger picture. 

“Tis sweet to be awakened by the lark,

Or lull’d by falling waters; sweet the hum

Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,

The lisp of children, and their earliest words.”

Don Juan

Lord Byron

(photos by Emily Murdoch)

Novel Query Update.
August 3, 2008

“Be there. Go there now and never leave. Imagine that your dreams have already come true. Live your life from that mindset; predicate your behavior on that reality, not the illusions that now surround you. Filter every thought, question, and answer from there. Let your focus shift, and be born again.

Because dwelling from, not upon, the space you want to inherit, is the fastest way to change absolutely everything.

See the difference?”

(I’m presently searching down the author of the above quote. It’s very lovely.)

 

First, let me just say what a beautiful day it is here.

 

the heat is waving, the sun enlightening,

the photo-perfect storm has a date with dusk,

the poisonous toads puddle the porch by evening,

soaking in the run-off from the misters,

attracted to the moths that buck the system

with an immunity to bug lights.

 

I am grateful, today, for everything. For the new mattress we bought last night, delivered early this morning, upon which I just had to take a nap, (I never take naps — I’m usually a blur, by day, and impossible to make sit still; when I’m writing, it may appear that I’m sitting still, but my mind isn’t –), and which was like sleeping on a cloud.

I’m grateful that my legs, organs and body work. I’m grateful for running water, both hot and cold, and a prolific ice cube maker popping out generous bowls of ice cubes for the rescue dogs’ water buckets. I’m grateful for the new load of bermuda hay, life-green and fluffy and promising lots of sneezes. I’m appreciative that, even if I don’t always get what I want, I do get what I need. Just to be born a woman in America makes me lucky. The list could go on and on.

On Friday afternoon, I finished query letter version ten and began querying Friday night. It’s been a month and a half since I’ve had any queries out in the world, and I was surprised to realize how much I missed the process. It has its inherent thrills, no doubt — and it’s easy to forget this, as you make that uncomfortable stretch.    

Putting yourself out there is quite the rollercoaster ride. Partly thrilling, partly frightening, it’s that very mix that makes the process so exhilarating, magnetic, and invigorating, if you have the guts — if you have the wonderful, necessary guts!

I’ve received one response already, and I’m appreciative of the speediness. It’s a rejection letter, but a personalized rejection letter. Rubbing off some of its magic dust, it has me loving that rollercoaster ride.

During the query process, as many writers know, the mental storms can move in so quickly and unexpectedly. However, I don’t feel disappointment over this new rejection. I feel quite the opposite, actually. It’s time to dance with the terriers in the hallway, again, laughing all the way. It’s time to summon up my inner wise elder, (scrunching your eyes tight and clicking the heels of your cowboy boots together three times helps), and lean into that pat on the back.

I tell myself what I would sincerely tell any other writer in the same position: be proud. Acknowledge the progress, no matter how small. Publication is a journey, not a destination — so, don’t give up, or allow yourself to surrender to self-doubt; there’s so much to learn from the process, and especially about yourself.

Be forewarned: the happy or sorry state of your courage will make itself known, and you may not like what you see. That’s okay. In addition, your missing parts will be made obvious, as will your soft parts, your scared parts, your wish parts and your stamina, or lack thereof. This is a good thing. This is where your work lies. Writing is oftentimes hard work in ways that have nothing to do with words. 

Published or not, rejected or not, the steps you take to follow your dreams will enhance your life in the present and brighten your experience on this crazy, beautiful planet. I know this is true, but all too human, at times, I don’t always feel it. Today I do, so, carpe diem, and I will.

 

guaranteed no tomorrow,

with no real control,

life is for the living; 

the hardest part is letting go.

 

And that’s my novel query update, and it’s an update with wings. I see the bigger picture, and I’m at peace with it. (It always brings on the poems.) I’m content to let go and let the chips fall where they may. 

 

The year ‘s at the spring,

And day ‘s at the morn;

Morning ‘s at seven;

The hill-side ‘s dew-pearl’d;

The lark ‘s on the wing;

The snail ‘s on the thorn;

God ‘s in His heaven—

All ‘s right with the world!

 

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Pippa’s Song   

Colorforms Weather.
July 24, 2008

“Who knows that ’tis not life which we call death, And death our life on earth?”

Euripides

These gray, overcast days always remind me of my paternal grandmother. With fans spinning all around me now, as they were back then, and the rain falling intermittently, my grandmother knew best how to keep kids occupied.

It’s a memory I haven’t accessed in years — sitting under the umbrella of the picnic table, if the day was only gray, or, snug and dry at a table in the screened-in porch of her house, listening to the rain make music on the roof and hunched over my Colorforms.

Colorforms are thin, die-cut vinyl images (my favorites were the Gumby playset, and the Raggedy Ann and Andy playset) placed on a slick, cardboard backdrop scene and held in place by static cling. The figures are removable, and so, can be arranged and rearranged endlessly, limited only by a child’s imagination.

Other rainy days, my grandmother set out paint brushes and cups of water and out came the Paint with Water books, with convenient tear-out sheets making for perfect refrigerator art.   

The only thing that could tear us children from our creations was the song of the ice cream truck coming around the corner. Like the Pied Piper’s flute, children emptied from rows of front doors into a river of bright faces, sweaty hands clutching quarters that used to look much bigger, then, and the grinning ice cream man akin to a celebrity sighting.

My grandmother always had change. Being the country mouse visiting from a place that didn’t have streetlights or sidewalks, corner stores or enough children to make a river, let alone ice cream trucks, I was always more excited than the city children. Grinning from ear to ear (as my face’s muscle memory still remembers) in that goofy, free and un-self-conscious way that always makes childhood magical, (no matter what’s going on around you), my never wavering choice was the red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop.

I think it’s why I love Monsoon Season so much — it reminds me of my grandmother and of some of the best memories of my childhood. She once told me how much I reminded her of herself — little feet, diminutive height, (exactly the same height), big personality, life of the party — and I couldn’t see it all, back then, as I can, now. The fact is even more precious to me as I grow older.

I see the resemblance most when I’m alone at night, a night-owl on the couch watching old movies at two in the morning, just like she used to do.

Last night, the terriers began barking down the empty hallway; I watched their eyes follow something I couldn’t see, all the way over to the space beside me, and it’s not the first time. That’s when I wonder if she’s dropped by for a visit, sitting down next to me to catch the end of the “show”.

Perhaps that’s why I’m hyper-noticing today, out of the blue, the sound of the fans and remembering the distorted voices of children yelling into them. Or, the rubber snake from Woolworth’s that I just had to have, and the expensive marionette she gave me for my eleventh birthday.

All I need to make the memories complete is a slice of her favorite treat — Entenmann’s Raspberry Danish Twist. At a time when food really was love, and as uncomplicated as air, perhaps it’s those food memories I cherish most of all.

I’ll be sad to see the sun come out, today, and break this nostalgic spell. But the horses need it, like nature’s blowdryer between storms. That’s okay. Memory Lane will remain gray, wet and full of noisy fans, just the way I like it.

(And on that note, Grandma, if you’re listening? Could you please send a few of my query letters to the right agents? Maybe find an agent who likes Colorforms, Paint with Water, and Entenmann’s? It couldn’t hurt. Thanks.)

Tonight’s Sunset.
July 11, 2008

Photo by Emily Murdoch 

  
 

 

 

If I printed out on paper all the sunset photographs I’ve taken over the years, I’d have a thick (and lovely) stack of photographs.

During the Sonoran Desert’s Monsoon Season, which runs from June to September, these cloudy days produce sunsets that take your breath away. On rainy days, rainbows, most often double rainbows, stretch over our house and disappear with their pots of gold behind gorgeous mountains that turn red at dusk.

  

Photo by Emily Murdoch

  
 

 

 

I make it a point, no matter what I’m doing, to put my work aside and watch the sunset every evening. Living in rural Arizona, I often have front row seats to meteor showers, night skies dripping with stars, twinkling planets visible with the naked eye and the Milky Way stretched like a banner from horizon to horizon.

I always feel as if I should be paying ticket money for all this beauty, but to whom?

Happy Monsoon Season! Happy Rainy Day!
June 26, 2008

“If you really want to be happy, nobody can stop you.” 

Mary Tricky

Here in the desert, if you look at the sky, every day is pretty much the same; the weather, although cooler at the end of the year, is pretty much unchangeable. If you bet the sky would be blue, you’d win, because blue skies abound.

Except during Monsoon Season. Happy day!

It’s been hotter than Hades in Arizona, and by hot, I mean 112 to 116 degree days. Each morning when I wake, regardless of the dreaded heat, my first responsibility is the morning feeding — of my rescue’s sanctuary dogs, my little terriers, and of course, the horses and donkey.

Saved from slaughter, the equines are especially hungry having known starvation in the past, but when summer rolls around they become less active in the heat. Consequently, I must decrease their rations.

Cloud, my newest equine rescue, has been successfully re-fed and happily sports a big hay belly. It’s to be expected, but as I lessen his rations, he grumbles in the only way he can — with ears pinned, and with head nods toward the tower of Bermuda hay. I explain to him that he can’t eat as much as he does in winter because it’s summer, now. I tell him he even needs to lose a little, and he pins his ears and snakes his neck menacingly, and because he wouldn’t hurt me, moves out of reach of my scratching fingers. Fine, he says. So there.

Each morning, trumpeting at me in greeting, he trots back and forth along the fence-line making soft, nickering sounds. Nuzzling my shoulder with his pink nose, he thanks me before starting to eat. I am the reliable food lady, tossing a flake on time throughout the day, never missing a feeding, always good for a neck scratch and a carrot or a peppermint candy. 

Cloud

Photo by Emily Murdoch 

 

 

 

Sometimes I catch Cloudy staring at me, like he can’t believe his luck. Maybe I should give her a tiny nip when she comes by, just to make sure I’m not dreaming. Meanwhile, he gets what all horses deserve — care, food and a home for life.

If only all our problems could be solved with a schedule and a flake of hay.  

The monsoon sky, swollen to bursting, lets fly. Cloudy reluctantly abandons his hay, kicking out at the thunder. 116 degrees (as it was this morning at 11 am) is washed away almost instantly, and it’s only 96 degrees an hour later. Clouds, rarely seen since last June, are fat and sassy or pulled in threads like cotton-candy, depending upon the winds.

Before this storm lets up, there will be hail. But, the equines are snug in their shelters, and the dogs are dry and sleeping on comforters from Goodwill. Sitting here typing in the air-conditioned bedroom, my favorite place in the summertime, I’m craving a cup of hot tea and the day off, like an east coast snow day, to read a book in bed while scratching the terriers with my feet and throwing balls that ricochet off the walls.

I just love Monsoon Season. The desert is shined up by the rain, the green everywhere multiplies, and all the animals of every size, domesticated and wild, run and jump and wrestle and play. Summer is officially broken in, as the rains will carry us from June to September, eventually replaced by the cooler clime of a desert winter.

It couldn’t have happened a day too soon. I was tempted to buy a sprinkler, today, and freezer pops, the long ones, where you cut off the end and suck on the blue or red or orange juice. Maybe I will — no one’s watching, right? I’ll dance through the sprinkler with no make-up on, my hair unbrushed and flying, not caring how I look in a bathing suit, and living completely and thoroughly in the moment.

(Who knew a little rain outside, could resurrect the child of summertime?)